The Next Big Website Scam – Ye Olde Yellowbook

Phone books

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Since the beginning of the popularity of websites, there have been numerous scams. It’s easy to do because many small businesses don’t understand the technology behind the websites and the false promise of easy money is always there. “So and so got a website and they’re a millionaire now.”. It’s true, people do make good money with their website, but it’s like anything else, it takes time, effort, research, and a wise investment. 

Now Yellowbook is getting into the game. Yellowbook has been scrambling for a way to dominate the Internet for a long time now. Fewer and fewer consumers look to the Yellow Pages now and they’re only hope is to dominate before their vast funds run dry. For many years, they charged huge fees to businesses to advertise. A tiny ad could run several thousands of dollars per year. Some businesses, like pizza shops, had no choice. If they didn’t pay, their business would never survive. Now I see that their salesman are finally succeeding at making website sales. 

I was a little excited to see a few new businesses get new websites. A hometown favorite pizza shop and a transmission shop finally got on board. The websites were not gems by any means, but they don’t have to be. They did manage to make them as informative as they need to be. For the exception of a contact page, they lacked any way for customers to interact. Not overly important, but customers are coming to expect this. I wondered who had finally talked them into a website with a design that was affordable. Then, I seen the cheesy obligatory “Yellowbook” link in the footers. Seriously, who would charge a customer good money, then demand an advertisement on the customer’s website? So what’s the problem? Where’s the scam?

A big problem is cost. They don’t publish the cost, but I’ve been told it’s VERY expensive. They also charge by how many pages you have. Currently, Google is looking for large websites and that’s not going to happen when a business is limited to a 5 page site. The scam is that Yellowbook illegally holds your domain name! If their service is bad or isn’t worth their outrageous pricing structure, they’re going to make it impossible or very difficult for the business to get the registered domain back. 

The worst problem is that after paying all this money, signing over your rights to your own domain name, and getting a very limited site, now they’re going to place their ad on your website. If customers go to that link, they’re going to see all of your competitors lined up in that directory. Your website is also going to be found at that the top of searches in a directory with all of your competitors on Yellowbooks directory page. This is horrific when considering the charges for the website. 

The good part is that a website is better than no website. These pages will rank easily. Any local website will rank easily though. Let’s say a business wants to rank for “newark Ohio pizza”. Well, there’s only so many pizza shops in town, most of them do very little to rank highly, so only a few hours of work is going to make the site rise in the searches quickly. The problem is that when a competitor figures this out, a little 5 page limit Yellowbook website isn’t going to be able to compete. 

Another good part is that if money is no object, these websites are functional. The prices for the customization are going to hurt, but the functions are there. 

Before considering a Yellowbook site, consider this. A great webserver that is more than most businesses need is about $10/month. A domain name is about $10/year. So, for less than $150/year, the absolute basics are covered. There are updates and maintenance that should be done, but about 1/2 hour a month is all that it takes. A great theme is about $200, another $50-$200 for custom graphics, like your logo in the header, and the time to create content. Any decent website system is as easy as typing a word document to add content. It’s easy to see where less than $1000 for setup is possible and less than $500/yr for maintaining the site is possible. This option also means that you should own everything. A website done this way becomes a valuable asset that adds to your business. Yellowbook detracts value because your domain name is tied to them and they control the actual asset. 

What’s my dog in this hunt? I just hate to see business owners get scammed. The Yellowbook sites I’m seeing look like a “Hail Mary”. Businesses are hurting right now and they’ve listened to a slick sales pitch hoping that it will help. I have done a few business websites, but it’s not my main source of income. I build quality websites and sell them or maintain them and profit from their popularity. I’ve tried selling to businesses, but I’m just not a salesman. I’d rather just build the site and sell it once I can prove it’s worth than explain the business of websites to those looking for a magic bullet. Websites are never a magic bullet as they take time. It takes time to make content that you know visitors want, install functions that are desired, get indexed and promoted in the search engines, etc. This never happens quickly, even with a high dollar Yellowbook website. 

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me

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